December 5, 2012


George W. Bush to Republicans: Embrace Immigration (John Avlon, Dec 5, 2012, Daily Beast)

On Tuesday morning, the Bush Center held a conference on immigration and economic growth at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. It was only the second major policy speech the former president has delivered since leaving office, and Bush let himself wax poetic on the subject of immigration: "Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul." [...]

The core message of the conference was that America needs more immigrants, not fewer, in the current economic climate. It was bipartisan in tone, arguing that we should be competing for the best and the brightest, including offering green cards with graduate-school diplomas--one of the few immigration measures that Senate Republicans and Democrats agree on. Most notable was the call for comprehensive immigration reform of the kind Bush backed in 2007, including what a new book from the Bush Center calls "a compassionate solution" for undocumented workers now in the country. In a campaign season, that would be called "amnesty."

All this is breathtakingly sensible given the tortured state of immigration debate in the Republican Party. Romney consistently pandered to the worst impulses in his party on this issue--first using it to get to the right of John McCain in 2007, and then Rick Perry in 2011. It was a cynical and short-sighted strategy, as Romney campaign manager Eric Fehrnstrom recently acknowledged--and contributed to the former governor's pathetic lack of demographic diversity in this year's general election.

Bush is not a proud policy wonk. But over the past four years, we have consistently been reminded of what a steadying and centering impulse he was on the most conservative wing of his party. The GOP--hell, the country--missed his voice during the unhinged ground zero mosque debate. Bush was always an advocate of religious tolerance, especially toward Islam at the height of the war on terror.

Republicans will need to decide whether to follow the Bush-McCain-Rubio wing of its party or the likes of Limbaugh. It should be an easy call. Sadly, it is not.

Likewise, Bush was consistent in reaching out to the Hispanic community, both as a border-state governor and as president. Xenophobic voices were not tolerated in his administration. As Bush said in Tuesday's speech, "America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the spirit of immigrants."

In the wake of Romney's election defeat, it has fallen to another Bush--Jeb--to raise the flag for a modern and inclusive Republican Party. 

Posted by at December 5, 2012 7:07 PM

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